The Ice-In-Scotch Lie You Shouldn't Fall For Anymore

One of the most contentious questions to ever emerge among the bibulous is this: Should you put ice in Scotch? Wars have been fought over it (on the internet, anyway). Some like their malts with a little dash of water, while others savor it with a cube of ice or two. And then there are purists who say that the best glass of whisky is neat and unadulterated. Forget ice and mixers, even water is a no-go.

The Scottish pride themselves on their fine alcohol, and whisky (or Scotch whisky, if you will) is one of them. For centuries, people enjoyed the golden brown liquor without a diluent or ice, but in 1994, The New York Times reported that Scottish whisky industry leaders reluctantly came to the conclusion that there was a growing number of people who would rather knock back the dram with a beverage like Coke. "We are not trying to be dictatorial. Mixed with Coca-Cola, it's quite a nice drink, although I cannot say that I would drink it that way," the then-chairman of Highland Distillers told the outlet.

Sugary beverages got the nod, albeit a hesitant one. By that example, ice should be an acceptable addition to a glass of Scotch, but some still argue that you shouldn't drink your Scotch with ice for various reasons.

Separating myth from fact

The main reason why some connoisseurs might crinkle their noses at the idea of adding ice to Scotch is the belief that it causes the liquor to break and lose aroma, per Serious Eats. Richard Paterson, master distiller at The Dalmore Distillery, argues that the complex flavors and aromas of whisky should not be diluted with ice, Scotch Whisky reports. "Let the warmth of your tongue do the talking not the bloody ice," he said, noting that the taste of a great single malt "takes away that quality that opens up in the mouth."

The biggest counterargument to that is there shouldn't be any rules as to how one should be enjoying whisky. If it's your bottle, you are free to do what you please with its contents. Besides, spirit makers these days approve of adding a little water to the liquor since it can bring out flavors in Scotch. As far as losing aroma is concerned, the aromatic compounds in Scotch enter the nose through the back of the mouth, per Serious Eats. Even if you drink iced scotch, it warms up in the mouth, leading the aroma into the nose. Either way, the aroma isn't lost.

However, it's better to use large ice cubes over small ones because, according to Whisky Rant, they tend to dilute the Scotch less.